The X1 is BMW’s smallest SUV, but don’t think that makes it a budget choice, either in how much it costs or the level of quality it offers.
Unlike larger BMW SUVs, the X1 is also available with a choice of petrol or diesel engines to go with the manual or automatic gearboxes and front- or four-wheel drive.
Rivals include the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, but if all you’re after is a small SUV with a premium badge Audi’s Q2 is more bijou still.
All the room you could ever need
In almost every dimension, the X1 is considerably larger than its rivals inside. There’s loads of luggage space in the boot, and a false floor means you can hide odds and ends away out of sight. What’s more, the rear seats are a doddle to fold, and you can also specify a sliding rear seat, should you wish to add even more flexibility.
In the back there’s plenty of legroom, even with a tall driver up front. Head room is also good, and while the middle-seat passenger must straddle a lump in the floor that’s par for the course in this class of car.
Up front the X1 feels equally as spacious, with lots of storage for odds and ends, and chunky door bins, too.
A firm ride, but comfortable seats
The seats in the BMW X1 are brilliantly supportive, meaning you can travel for hours without ending up with backache.
If you like a softer ride, it’s sensible to specify a model with 17in wheels, but bear in mind that means doing without run-flat tyres. This technology, which allows you to continue driving even after getting a puncture, is only available on 18-inch wheels and upwards. Thus equipped the X1 is on the firmer side of comfortable, but still perfectly acceptable both in town and on the motorway.
Once up to speed there’s some tyre roar to deal with, particularly on poorly surfaced roads, but neither wind or engine noise are particularly intrusive.
Dashboard layout 9/10
Hard to fault the design or quality
The X1’s dashboard is typically BMW, which is to say attractive, built out of decent materials, and clearly laid out.
The twin gauges ahead of the driver house easy-to-read dials, and if you choose the optional head-up display, you get a readout that’s well-sited and clear.
Meanwhile, the menu system for BMW’s central iDrive screen is pretty easy to get your head around, while the centrally-located screen is at just the right height.
Easy to drive 8/10
A doddle, most of the time
The X1’s ribbed bonnet makes it reasonably easy to judge where the nose is, while the bootlid is pretty much vertical, making it obvious where it ends.
The only downside is that the rear windows curve up slightly, which cuts out some of your visibility when reverse parking.
Fortunately, all X1s come with rear parking sensors as standard. However, for front parking sensors, you have to add a reasonably pricey options package.
The controls of any X1 are easy-going, with light steering and pedals, and all of the engines pull well enough, even when the car is fully loaded. Usefully an automatic gearbox is available across the range.
Fun to drive 9/10
About as good as a small SUV gets
High-riding 4x4s aren’t famed for their ability to go around corners, but the X1’s appetite for twisting roads is faintly astonishing. The steering is quick and direct, grip levels are high, and performance in all models is pretty strong. The 20i 2.0-litre petrol engine has a particularly pleasing appetite for revs, while the twin turbocharged 25d diesel is positively rapid.
BMW offers an optional electronic damper control as well as an M Sport suspension package, but the standard suspension works just fine, preventing body lean admirably well and offering the right amount of pliancy.
BMW disappointed in the last JD Power survey
BMW didn’t perform well in the 2016 JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Survey, finishing 21st out of the 24 manufacturers included, although with Mercedes in 20th and Audi in 22nd it was at least among its rivals.
BMW also matches Mercedes in providing a warranty that lasts for three years no matter how many miles you do, whereas Audi's expires after 60,000 miles.
Fuel economy 9/10
For the most part, the most efficient choice
The most efficient version of the X1 is the front-wheel-drive 18d, from which you can expect 50mpg in normal driving. The more powerful 20d should return between 40-45mpg in normal driving, and the 20i petrol automatic close to 35mpg.
All in all, an Audi Q3 or a Mercedes GLA will be slightly more economical in normal driving, with their drivers benefiting from a few extra miles per gallon in most cases.
Doesn’t come particularly cheap
The X1 might be more spacious inside than its closest rivals, but it’s also more expensive. It’s worth noting, too, that the X1’s range is rather restricted. The cheapest SE version is only available with the least powerful diesel engine – so if you want anything more than that, you have to pay a premium to upgrade to a higher-specification model.
Servicing and repair costs, meanwhile, should be slightly cheaper than those for the GLA, but on a par with the Q3’s, while company car tax for the X1 will generally cost fractionally less than the Q3’s, but about the same as the equivalent GLA.
Should protect you very well
The X1 scored a maximum five stars when crash-tested by Euro NCAP, the benchmark European crash testing organisation. It comes with a host of safety equipment designed to prevent you from getting into a crash, including autonomous emergency braking. This system detects impending head-on collisions and can automatically apply the brakes to compensate.
In the event that you do crash there are six airbags, and a system which phones the emergency services automatically to alert them.
Standard spec 7/10
Entry-level version has all you’d need – but the range is very limited
The X1 range starts with the SE version, which comes with plenty of equipment. Dual-zone climate control, satnav, a Bluetooth connection, DAB radio, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, and 17in alloy wheels. However, it is only available with the least powerful diesel engine and two-wheel drive.
Move up to the Sport version and you gain sports seats, fancier interior trimmings and 18in alloy wheels.
Alternatively, for a more luxurious X1, you can pick the X-line model, which gets you leather seats which are heated in the front, ambient LED lighting inside the car, and LED headlamps.
And at the top of the rand sits the M Sport version, which does away with the leather seats in favour of cloth and Alcantara sports items, but does give you stiffer suspension and a sporty-looking body kit too.
Our favourite version
sDrive 18d SE (list price: £27,850)
Options to add Metallic paint (£550), Driver Comfort package (£510)
The verdict 8/10
It might not be cheap, but the BMW X1 is an excellent SUV, offering many of the good bits about the larger X3 and X5 in a more compact package. It’s roomy, safe and endowed with a great interior; what’s more, it’s far more enjoyable to drive than you might expect.